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The issue of Memorial Safety has been the subject of adverse publicity and at times public distress. The guidelines were developed by representatives across the industry in response to requests from burial ground operators and cemetery managers who expressed concern about how to respond appropriately to the risk presented by unstable gravestones. In the UK local authorities and councils have general powers of management in relation to public cemeteries, including power to take any action deemed necessary to remove the danger.
Significant risks should be properly managed – but the risk of injury from a headstone or other memorial which has become loose and unstable is very low. The Ministry of Justice has provided a document in response to the requests by cemetery managers for practical assistance in developing sensible, proportionate and sensitive arrangements for managing gravestones, setting out good practice on the standard expected in the risk management of memorials, on all types of burial grounds, public or private.
The guidance sets out a sensible approach to assist burial ground operators to meet their legal responsibilities.
By following this good practice UK burial ground operators, can provide safe places to visit and work and importantly make sure that remedial work to reduce any risk of injury does not cause unnecessary distress to bereaved families and those who value the great historical and environmental heritage of cemeteries.
The Ministry of Justice guidance only applies to England, but the sensitive and proportionate approach set out in the guidance could be used as a roadmap for cemetery managers throughout the UK and Ireland.